Winter Wild is bringing music, film, dance, art workshops, food and street performers to Apollo Bay

Music, film, dance, art workshops, food and street performers all await your discovery in Apollo Bay's brand-new festival Winter Wild – wrapped in the darkness and elemental power of the Victorian winter. For co-founder Libby Riches, the town is ecstatic to come completely alive, and show a side that visitors often don't get to see.

"There's been a long-term sense in Apollo Bay that while we're primarily marketed as a pleasant summer destination, that the winter here is fantastic," Riches says. "It's really wild – beautiful pieces of coastline and amazing forests. For quite a while, a few of us had been talking about how great it would be to have an opportunity to showcase that a bit more to the broader community, but the opportunity came up after the Christmas Day fires."
The 2015 Christmas Day fires around Wye River sadly caused heavy damage and closed a lot of the roads during the tourism season, leaving a hefty economic impact upon the entirety of the Great Ocean Road. To create something beautiful from the devastation, the Colac Otway Shire and the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Authority talked with Regional Development Victoria about ways to assist the local economy, and offered a financial boost to contribute towards a cultural winter project – with which Winter Wild was born.
"We are hoping that people will come down and deeply experience what it is like to be moving around this town and this landscape in winter," says Riches. "We want them out on the foreshore, out in the public areas. It doesn't matter if it's raining or the wind's coming in – they're great dramatic landscapes.”
With its strong community of visual artists, writers and musicians, Apollo Bay provides a diverse array of creative content tucked away amongst rainforest and beautiful ocean cliffs – which Winter Wild wants to show off in spades. Representing the four weeks of the festival are the four elements – Water, Earth, Air and Fire – weaving together a story created around the elemental experience of being in Apollo Bay.
In the first week, Water appropriately represents origin, birth and arrival, offering such visual spectaculars as director Andrew Kidman's seminal surf film Litmus and the influential music of Dirty Three's Mick Turner. Earth focuses upon dance and unique cultural expression through movement, as well as Emotion Works’ fresh, condensed approach to the classics in Cut Opera.
Air (co-programmed by and running alongside the Apollo Bay Writer's Festival) explores themes of social justice with slam poetry and spoken-word cabaret, and it's all going to go off with Fire –when  a giant bonfire will be engulfing the festival's impressive art installation Wild Wood, and an entire cow will be cooked on the foreshore over the course of 14-18 hours.
There'll also be music, costumed performances and theatrics galore before a humongous shipwrecked-hull-shaped steel braiser on the shore, lit every Saturday night at six o'clock like a beacon to signify the opening of the festival – in short, it's going to be like no other festival you've seen before.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Yumi Umiumare's Butoh performance," says Riches. "I think it'll be something entirely unlike this community has ever seen.
"That is going to be a pretty spectacular thing. The chefs will be getting up at about one in the morning to light the fire pit. The animal's going to take about 14 hours to cook, so they'll be feeling the cold pretty much from midnight, manning the fire all through the night, getting the animal on before dawn.
"The vision, ethics, respect and sense of offering from the chef who's preparing that meal is genuine and meaningful, and is really committed to offering up respectfully the life of that animal to the crowd that assembles on the last night. I think it's a really lovely statement of living as part of the environment as all the plants, animals and people, and being deeply connected with it."

Winter Wild will take place in Apollo Bay from Saturday July 1 – Sunday August 13.